Category Archives: Educational Technology

Online Learning Part 5

Online Learning Part 5 – Tools

by Mark Sivy

According to the Center for Learning and Performance Technologies, there are currently over 2000 digital technology tools and applications which can be used for education, with most of them being relatively easy to use and free or low cost. Mixing these up as you’re developing different online learning or e-learning lessons and activities or mobile learning chunks can make your instructional design and course more exciting and engaging. Most of these tools can be included in the following categories:

  • calendar Personal Productivity – includes calendars, concept mapping applications, computer utilities, organizers, and accessibility tools.
  • Web Browsers and Related Tools – allow for accessing, subscribing to, searching, aggregating, and reading web content.
  • Web Information – offer the ability to create, post, and read information using websites, wikis, and blogs.
  • Communication Tools – permit both synchronous and asynchronous options such as email, instant messaging, texting, and discussion forums.
  • Documents – these provide for offline creation and presentation of information such as documents, spreadsheets, web designand presentations
  • Public Information – present many forms of information access including but not limited to frequently asked questions (FAQs), tutorials, podcasts, and open courseware.
  • Course Management Systems – enable the creation and delivery of course content as well as interactive participation, social exchange, collaboration, tracking, communication, and grading.
  • Instructional Design and Development – support course content authoring and learning assessment
  • Audio, Video, Images, and Graphics – allow for the creation, review, editing, and presentation of a variety of multi-sensory presentation
  • web browserVirtual Environments – facilitate the interaction of individuals with environments and other individuals through the use of avatars within three dimensional surroundings.
  • Web Conferencing and Web Meetings – allow individuals to meet synchronously using voice, voice and video, whiteboards, and screen sharing.
  • Social Networks – permit the creation of various online communities, and allow for the formation of personal and professional networks.
  • Collaboration and Sharing – provide for common digital work spaces for groups or teams to collectively create, share, and modify content.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward


Virtual Reality…For Education?

The Latest in Virtual Reality Gear

by Mark Sivy

The notion of virtual reality can be traced back to 1938 when Antonin Artaud, a French playwright, actor and director, used it in a book written to describe theater. Later, in the 1970s, Myron Krueger coined the term “artificial reality” in reference to the interaction between humans and computers. Historically, this concept of having a virtual session within a computer-generated 3D simulated environment has been nothing more than an exercise in science fiction for the masses. Even though the virtual reality (VR) systems that enable this type of experience have been available for decades, their price tags and technological requirements have been enormous. Then came the recent introduction of the wearable VR device that attaches to a personal computer.

<img src="image.gif" alt="Oculus Rift" />

Oculus Rift

The media forerunner in this has been the Oculus Rift, which is a consumer-targeted virtual reality head-mounted display that is expected to be released in final version near the end of 2014. It made headlines recently when it was announced that the parent company, Oculus VR, was purchased by Facebook in March 2014. The current developer kit version of the Rift is available for $300 US. Similar personal computer-connected systems are under development by other companies such as the Sony Morpheus, True Player Gear Totem, Avegant Glyph, GameFace Mark IV, and Durovis Dive, thus we can anticipate a flood of this very highly anticipated technology into the marketplace during the next couple of years. Presently these systems are primarily being designed for either immersive gaming or for movie entertainment, but other uses of the system are certainly possible and are being considered.

<img src="image.gif" alt="Durovis Dive" />

Durovis Dive

<img src="image.gif" alt="True Player Gear" />

True Player Gear

<img src="image.gif" alt="Sony Morpheus" />

Sony Morpheus

How Can They Be Used for Education?

Imagine the advantages that these VR options would have for education. The levels of engagement, interactivity, collaboration, presence and visualization that these devices will offer can certainly be leveraged to the advantage of learning. In a recent Wired article, Brian Shuster discussed the likelihood of using virtual world environments for educational purposes. Even the Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey, envisions educational uses of his creation in an article in Gamespot. In anticipation of the educational uses of VR, East Carolina University in North Carolina had established the Virtual Reality and Education Laboratory in 1992 and the university currently offers a concentration in VR within their Education Master’s degree program.

Reflection Point: Virtual reality is a medium, a means by which humans can share ideas and experiences. ~ Alan B. Craig


Why Educational Technology?

Educational Technology

by Mark Sivy

Having worked over 25 years with technologies used for education and now having completed a doctorate with a specialization in instructional systems technology, I felt the need to reflect upon my experiences and to recalibrate myself within this field. The question is, what IS this field?

After reading through multitudes of definitions and perspectives on educational technology and related terms such as instructional technology and instructional systems technology, I’ve come to an overarching conclusion. In this age of information overload, with a wealth of inconsistent information coming from well-intentioned individuals who probably are not subject matter experts, I firmly believe it is essential to have reputable organizations setting standards that serve as reference points. In the case of educational technology, I turned my attention to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). The AECT, which had its beginning in 1923, is the most widely recognized international educational technology professional organization and it’s been maintaining terminology and definitions for decades.

So to define the field of educational technology, I refer to the definition released by the AECT (2008):

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

From my perspective, I see some crucial elements in this definition that fit my personal beliefs and interests:

  • Study. The desire to add theory and research-based scaffolding to my work was the primary driving force in seeking my doctorate. I strongly believe that study should be an integral component in any educational pursuits that involve change or adaptation.
  • Ethical Practice. I consider this phrase in the sense of following accepted rules or standards of professional conduct in ensuring intended outcomes. This doesn’t mean discarding creativity and innovation by following rigid guidelines, but rather means that one is prudent, cautious, and responsible in the selection and use of technology. I’ve seen too many cases where technology was used in education because it was a desirable current trend rather than because a well-documented need existed and a well-informed decision was made to use technology to address it.
  • Appropriate Technological Processes and Resources. Even with a recognized need as a driver, carrying out the implementation of a technology has often not been strategically and completely planned. This can result in a lack of buy-in, teaching and learning issues, improper or insufficient support, and funding shortfalls. From my experience, I recommend using a comprehensive project approach such as agile project management.

In the end, I see educational technology as a technology that has been selected and used based upon educational theory, research, and practice, with the intention of integrating technology skills and technological literacy into the curriculum and learning. I view instructional technology (technology as a teaching and learning tool) and instructional systems technology (designing, developing, and managing technology-related processes, policy, infrastructure, organization systems, and services in an educational environment) as subsets of educational technology.

Reflection Point: Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event. ~Heidi Hayes Jacobs


Association for Educational Communications and Technology (2008). Definition. In A. Januszewski and M. Molenda (Eds.), Educational Technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.